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The Great British Con

26 Feb 2017 | Tom Brufatto

Since the 23rd June 2016, we are being constantly reminded that our government is merely executing the democratic ‘will of the people’. Brexit is marketed to us and the rest of the world as a simple celebration of British democracy and newly-found national self-confidence. Our government is intent on progressing Brexit at a dangerous speed, making headlines that cause us to focus on mitigating the effects of individual events and allowing them to normalise Brexit by ignoring the truth of the events that preceded the EU referendum. Lest we forget.

 EU ACCESSION

On the 5th June 1975, the UK electorate chose to join what was then known as the “Common Market”. This decisive referendum result showed that 67% of British voters were in favour of joining the most ambitious political project in the world.

Their choice payed off. As the EU grew to become the biggest trading block in the world, the UK climbed to the position of 4th largest economy. The result of this economic success was felt across the UK and the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation became the most prosperous alive.

Prosperity and economic growth in the UK were a direct result of UK accession to the EU.

 THE FINANCIAL CRISIS

An enabler of this prosperity was the west’s decision to embrace under-regulated capitalism and tertiary sector industry. Whilst it worked, governments were given loans for public spending, businesses were given loans to expand and people were given loans to buy houses. When this unsustainable model hit its limit in 2008, and as the global financial markets crashed, the political landscape started to change.

As favour swung to opposition parties across the globe, David Cameron became prime minister of the coalition government in 2010 with a mandate to fix the now broken British economy, and set about enforcing austerity. The education system, NHS and every other publicly funded entity started to suffer the consequences. Equally, the businesses that had previously flourished thanks to loans were forced to reduce their workforce and/or close. Those who were told they could afford a house were told they no longer could.

People were not left behind by globalisation as much as they were forced to the back by austerity.

 THE RUN-UP TO 2015

As spending cuts grew deeper, the anguish felt by the British people grew stronger and the need for alternatives became more urgent. UKIP seized the opportunity to remodel itself: from a racist fringe party to a 21st century populist alternative to the ‘establishment’, albeit being lead and funded by prominent ‘establishment’ figures. By providing comforting lies to the suffering of the British people, UKIP’s message started to gain popularity with parts of England and Wales in which austerity was most noticeable. Critically, it was used as validation by the far right of the Conservative Party.

Thinking ahead to the 2015 general election, moderate conservatives were faced with two options: risk a revolt on the far right of their own political party which would jeopardise their image of unity, or placate them. David Cameron also saw opportunity in the latter option, and chose to pedal Euroscepticism and the demonization of EU nationals living in the UK to increase his chances of winning in 2015. His renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU was little more than a stunt to claw back votes from UKIP whilst at the same time using the 2013 referendum pledge as a means to force the EU to cower to his perceived political prowess, or else he would campaign to leave the EU.

By this point, David Cameron had already decided that his political career was more important than our future.

THE 2015 General Election

In 2015 the British people granted the Conservatives an absolute majority in the belief that Labour could not be trusted with fixing the economy and that the EU and EU nationals were responsible for most shortcomings in public services.

In their pursuit for re-election, government had successfully convinced Britons that EU citizens were to blame for health tourism, benefit tourism, putting pressure on public services, driving wages down, stealing British jobs, British homes, and places in British schools – a gross misrepresentation of their contribution to our society for short-term political gain.

Throughout this process, opposition parties failed to assert that health and benefit tourism was a targeted lie, designed to mask the neglect of the NHS and the welfare system as a result of austerity. British jobs had been lost to the mechanisation of production lines and the banks’ reticence to lend, new homes and schools hadn’t been built in order to pursue the unrealistic ‘budget surplus’.

We were at the height of a financial depression and the EU and its nationals were used as scapegoats to avoid accountability.

 THE REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN

For the duration of the referendum campaign, chaos reigned in British politics. What was intended to be a mere tick-in-the-box exercise for the PM to silence the far-right of his party and undermine UKIP for good, descended into a nationalist, racist and narcissistic free-for-all.

The right-wing conservatives sought their opportunity to overrun the party that had for years tamed them, ambitious conservative MPs jumped at the opportunity to undermine their party leader in an overt leadership contest and UKIP and Leave.EU embarked on a campaign that was so racist that they were excluded from joining the official Vote Leave campaign.

The only thing that united, and still unites, leave campaigners is their implementation of meaningless nationalist slogans and lies that defy common sense and political decency.

THE RESULT

The remnants of the vote leave campaign, now embodied by Theresa May’s government, continue to attempt to silence and marginalise us into submission. Their favourite weapon is to call us ‘undemocratic’, because we oppose ‘the will of the people’.

Let’s be clear then, Brexit isn’t ‘the will of the people’: it is the failed attempt to resolve an internal party-political dispute, compounded by a failed austerity policy.

In other words, Brexit is the biggest con of the British people in the history of the United Kingdom – and it started in 2010.

Thoughts on Parliamentary Approval of the Brexit Deal

Since attending the talk by Professor Michael Dougan last Wednesday there is something that I have been thinking about a lot.

He reminded us that the signing of Article 50 and the two-year negotiation period that follows this deals ONLY with our terms of exit of the EU. There is NO provision for discussion or agreement on our future trading arrangements, our membership or not of the single market, whether we wish to be a Norway, a Switzerland, a Canada (or most likely a Total Disaster). These secondary discussions can and will only start after we have exited the EU.

This is a terrifying reality. It means we will be leaving the EU (our current membership of which is of course the very best deal we could ever hope to get) without any guarantee of what our final position will be. We may of course have an idea of what our desires are for the outcome, but if we look at the hopeless team of ideologues in charge of Brexit, these will be delusional and totally unachievable and of course kept secret.

Therefore, when we call for parliamentary approval, all that can possibly approved is whether Article 50 should be signed or not, or if it is signed, then approval of our exit terms. By the time parliament would be in the position to debate or vote on our final deal with the EU we will already be out! We will therefore be leaving the EU completely blind to our future.

There seems to be very little discussion on this, and I fear many people (including some politicians who really should know the full implications) are often combining these two completely separate aspects of our leaving into one.

There is a huge desire amongst those of us who would like to remain in the EU for parliamentary discussion and approval of the Brexit deal before it’s too late. This desire is often mentioned in our groups, by some politicians and commentators in the media.

But there is a point that Michael Dougan made that really struck home to me, and it appears that many of us haven’t yet appreciated the full consequences of, and that is if we leave, it is highly unlikely we will ever re-join, or at least not for a very long time. This is because we would never have a chance to renegotiate a deal as sweet as the one we have now, as on applying for membership we would be considered a new member, and therefore would have no opt outs, no chance to keep the £ and we would be part of the Schengen zone. This would be unpalatable to many in this country, even some of those that voted remain.

It is therefore imperative that we do not leave the EU, our current deal is the very best there is, and cannot be beaten by any other possible deal or combination of deals.

 

Democracy

Remain campaigners are often accused in newspapers, on forums or in discussion of being undemocratic in not accepting the result of the referendum. In answer to that accusation I would argue the following

  1. We have every right to fight for what we believe in; why should we just give up? Politics is an ongoing process, after a general election the losing party doesn’t just go home and wait for five years, they continue to campaign on what they hold dear. When we lost the referendum, why should we just sit back for eternity!
  2. The actual referendum was not legally binding; it was purely an advisory referendum. If it was legally binding then there should have been a much larger threshold for change to happen (say 60% of all voters in favour of leaving).
  3. UKIP and Eurosceptic’s from other parties have spent decades campaigning to leave the EU, so why shouldn’t we have the right to campaign to remain (or if the worst happens) to re-join.
  4. The Leave side in particular based much of their campaign material on complete and utter lies. They were fully aware of this throughout, and were very quick to wash their hands of the great majority of their promises in the aftermath.
  5. Perhaps we should also remember that what is going on in government right now is totally undemocratic – talk of triggering article 50 without parliamentary discussion or agreement, and without parliamentary approval of exactly what this country is aiming for – a total disgrace! Especially from those who claimed they wanted to reclaim our democratic sovereignty.
  6. We are also accused of being unpatriotic, how can this be when we are doing our best to keep this country in one piece, and to ensure its economic and social integrity.

So it is far from undemocratic for us to fight and campaign to stay in the EU. In fact, it is our democratic duty to do so. It may seem daunting and even impossible at times, but with joint effort anything is possible. Remember that what we do is in the very best interests of our country.